We were all so much younger and unsoiled a year ago, weren’t we? Well, at least we were all younger.
Paging Dr. Freud.
The archway is being built east to west by Las Vegas’ go-to sign company, YESCO.
The bases of the 80-foot archway, on the Strat side, are substantial.
Yes, we took a photo of the arch support. You’re welcome.
When complete, the archway will feature the City of Las Vegas logo. Interestingly, the logo being used was abandoned by the City for official uses in August 2017, because some found the logo confusing because it was seemed to convey “fun” and “a classic vibe” and “visual interest” and “you know, all that crap Vegas is supposed to be about.”
Anyway, the ditched logo will be back in a big way.
Here’s a closer look at the arch’s inner steel frame and ourter fancy.
The archway joins another “welcome to downtown Vegas” photo op a couple of blocks away.
That display, unveiled in August 2018, cost about $400,000 and features dice, poker chips, a roulette table and showgirls.
Many actual Las Vegas showgirls were nearly this tall.
The welcome sign and arch grew out of a need for a new way to welcome visitors when downtown’s original sign (a replica of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign near Mandalay Bay) was destroyed when an asshat crashed into it with his truck in July 2016.
All due respect to asses, hats and trucks.
If you can’t tell the difference between a parabolic arch and a catenary arch, we can’t be friends.
You know we’ll be keeping an eye on the construction of the new downtown welcome archway. We’re always up for some new bling or whatever the kids are calling it now.
When we first heard about plans for a massive karaoke bar at Palazzo, Kamu Ultra Karaoke, we didn’t pay much attention.
For starters, we aren’t exactly a karaoke person, and it also felt like the wrong time to open an ambitious, sprawling new venue.
Well, we’re an idiot.
From the moment you walk in, Kamu is like a thrill ride for your eyes.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke isn’t just another karaoke bar, it’s precisely the kind of eye-popping, over-the-top, high-tech, let-it-all-go escape from reality Vegas and the world could use right now.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke does everything right. It brings people together (with 40 private rooms), but keeps them safely distanced. It offers high-end, nightclub-inspired VIP experiences, but also
caters to family-friendly fun (adults only after 8:00 p.m.).
The food and drink is far better than it has to be, and perhaps the best part: Karaoke is optional.
Hey, you don’t need to play golf to love Top Golf, and straight guys have fun at Chippendales.
Kamu’s rooms are sound insulated so you only have to listen to the terrible singing you choose to listen to.
Let’s start at the beginning. Kamu is Korean in origin, a mixture of “ka,” meaning “song,” and “mu,” meaning “dance.”
Kamu Ultra Karaoke is the manifested dream of a dude you’ll want to party with, Jeff “Kemo” Kim. This isn’t Kim’s first karaoke rodeo (we should probably trademark that term), as he’s had a successful karaoke lounge in Korea Town in L.A. for more than a decade.
Jeff Kim says he’s been working on Kamu for more than two years. Nailed it.
We had a lot of preconceived notions about what karaoke is, but Kim’s Kamu Ultra Karaoke turned all that on its head.
Kamu isn’t a big room with an audience enduring strangers singing. It’s 40 rooms, each with a custom design, where groups of friends can eat and drink and party. And, yes, if they insist, sing.
The rooms start at $50 an hour, typically, but there are lots of upgrades and a number of rooms that look more like luxury suites at Vegas resorts. There’s also bottle service, because somebody needs to pay for this colossal, 17,000-square-foot space.
Each karaoke room is cushier than the last, and each has a distinctive theme. One is adorned with glorious neon signage. You’ll never guess which room we chose.
This was the precise moment we became a karaoke fan.
As this review is an unqualified rave, we reserve the right to poke fun at Kamu just once!
Do not get us started on these dice pips! Let’s just call them Easter eggs for hardcore Vegas fans.
The singers will be happy to hear there’s a massive selection of songs. Guests also have the option to play the music from their iPhone (or YouTube) on the impressive sound system.
Each room is also equipped with sound-activated lighting. Guests can completely control their experience, from the volume of the music (thankfully) to the light displays and just about every other element of the space, including the room temperature.
There’s a call button for servers, too.
And speaking of servers. Boom. Behold our new favorite cocktail, the Lychee Love.
Please don’t tell Captain Morgan. He’s sensitive.
The Lychee Love features Roku gin, Pomp & Whimsy gin liqueur, Nagomi lychee syrup, fresh lemon juice and San Pellegrino Limonata.
We adored the Lychee Love and the hits just kept on coming.
A close second was the Kamu Cooler, with 21 Seeds Cucumber Jalapeno tequila, Aperol aperitif, watermelon juice, lime/mint sour and Fever Tree ginger beer.
We don’t care for ginger beer, but Kamu has a way of making us love even the things we think we hate. Including singing. Unless it’s the Bee Gees. We’ll spare you the video.
A dozen Kamu Coolers and you’ll think you’re Celine.
The drinks are just the beginning at Kamu.
That’s because the venue has a secret weapon, kick-ass executive chef Marty Lopez. Lopez and his team have put together a winning menu, many dishes intended for sharing, most with an Asian flair, familiar but new.
Lopez has an arm-long list of Vegas restaurant credentials, including 35 Steaks + Martinis at Hard Rock, Alize at Palms, Andre’s at Monte Carlo, Delmonico at Venetian, as well as stints at Bacchanal Buffet and Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars.
We dove headlong into the Caviar and Chips to start.
Chips, but fancy.
The top dish of the evening was the Korean Fried Chicken. These wings had a kick, and while we don’t tend to like spicy, Kamu once again made us a believer.
The dry-aged tomahawk was prepared to perfection, and the parmesan truffle fries were simple but irresistible.
A highlight was the Honey Toast, which we didn’t even realize was a thing until our visit to Kamu. We couldn’t put this dish (with buttered sugar toast, Dulce de Leche ice cream, and honey whipped cream) into our face fast enough.
We quite enjoyed learning about Korean culture through the medium of ice cream.
Whether one enjoys karaoke or not, the food and drink, combined with private spaces, is an
undeniable draw. Kamu is ideal for office parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, divorce parties, the list goes on and on.
While there are some temporary procedures and protocols in place, they aren’t intrusive.
Upon entry, guests get a temperature check and walk through a sanitizing unit.
We don’t know if it does anything, but you feel disinfected.
Inside the karaoke rooms, the mics have disposable covers.
Always a good idea in Vegas, if you know what we mean.
Here’s a free hack.
Put the mic cover over your camera lens.
Don’t laugh until you see the finished product!
It’s a great way to get a soft, dreamy effect. Are you not entertained?
Kamu has no idea they’re giving away valuable camera lens filters!
The bottom line is we love Kamu Ultra Karaoke and can’t wait to go back.
On the way in, make sure to check out a sweet digital water curtain designed by Aqua Reign. The display has programmable patterns, the water droplets acting as pixels. We’d have captured some video, but we were busy learning about the nuances of lychee, if you get our drift.
We were pleased Kamu is easily accessible via Palazzo’s self-parking garage. Grand Canal Shoppes can be challenging to navigate, but Kamu is within a few feet of the elevator, near the popular Sushi Samba restaurant.
Free parking is a great perk.
Sorry, but you sort of can’t not sing this song. It’s the law.
Another perk is the front lounge at Kamu, one of the big draws in the early weeks of the venue’s debut. Many guests just do drinks after taking a tour of all the karaoke rooms.
Thanks to Kamu Ultra Karaoke for hosting our visit and for far surpassing all our misguided expectations.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke is a must-do Vegas experience. It’s the karaoke place for people who may not even like karoke. And for the people who do, it’s a wannabe pop star’s wet dream.
For the moment, Kamu Ultra Karaoke is open seven days a week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Adults only after 8:00 p.m.
Big props to the team at Kamu for opening during a surreal time in Las Vegas. If anything can succeed despite the obstacles, Kamu can.
Get more details from the official Kamu Ultra Karaoke site, and enjoy more pics from the first of what we expect will be many visits to this awesome new Vegas party destination.
The debut of the new Japanese-themed display at the Bellagio Conservatory may have been delayed by world events, but the horticultural wizards at the Strip resort have managed to pull off another impressive jaw-dropper.
The Bellagio Conservatory is one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas, and Las Vegas needs its eye-popping attractions more than ever.
Here’s a look inside the new display, starting with a replica of Osaka Castle.
Osaka means “large hill” in Japanese,” making this the most useless photo caption you’ll read all day.
The new display, “Japan Journey: Magical Kansai” was supposed to debut March 21, but the unveiling was pushed back due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Japanese-themed exhibit runs through Sep. 12, 2020.
Flowers made of flowers are the “Inception” of horticultural magic.
On the day we visited, it was eerily quiet at the Conservatory. The venue has subtly adjusted how guests move through the attraction, helping avoid crowding.
While the lack of patrons isn’t great for the hotel, it makes the experience a lot more enjoyable for guests and the photo ops are better than ever.
Remember all those times you wished people would get out of your way? Not an issue anymore.
One of the highlights of the new display is a giant Hello Kitty.
The news release says Hello Kitty is 14 feet tall. A placard at the Conservatory says it’s 16 feet tall. We love a good conspiracy!
Hello Kitty is made of 30,000 roses, or about the number of flowers we tell people we send on Mother’s Day.
Fun fact: Hello Kitty’s last name is White.
The exhibit also has Sika deer, butterflies, a bamboo forest and a three-story pagoda.
Why a Japanese theme? Well, MGM Resorts publicly says it “reflects MGM Resorts International’s commitment to celebrating Japanese culture.”
The reality is MGM Resorts has invested what’s estimated to be $100 million in getting a license to operate a casino resort in Osaka, Japan.
Officials were hoping to get a resort open by 2025, but those hopes were dashed by the pandemic.
Still, MGM Resorts has made it clear there’s woo being pitched, and a Japanese-themed display at the Conservatory shows Japanese officials and travelers the company is in it for the long haul.
The attention to detail is, as always, a wonder to see.
An intriguing element of this year’s display is the main entrance that sends guests through the mouth of a lion. The Conservatory says the “wide-opened mouth of the lion is believed to swallow evil spirits and bring about success and good fortune.”
A long-standing myth in Las Vegas holds that the original entrance to MGM Grand had to be changed because it forced guests to walk into the mouth of a lion, presumably considered bad luck by Asian tourists. They didn’t actually walk into the lion’s mouth, as they do at Bellagio, they walked under the lion’s chin, but we should never let facts get in the way of a good story.
Good luck or bad, this is awesome.
Several elements of the display made their debut last year, including the butterflies and Osaka Castle replica.
As we were the first to report, Bellagio previously made the decision to cut back on the number of its displays, from five seasonal displays to four each year.
It’s not the number of displays that counts, it’s the quality of the stamen. Or something.
We love these Nishijin-ori textile ribbons! Yes, we knew what they were called off the top of our head, not because we read a news release.
Everything in Vegas is a little off right now, which might explain why Bellagio hasn’t updated the official Conservatory Web page with the current display. We’re just happy it happened at all.
Enjoy more poorly composed and out-of-focus photos of the Bellagio Conservatory’s “Japan Journey” display.
When you return to exploring Las Vegas again, here’s a hidden gem even frequent visitors may not realize exists.
It’s the Brahma shrine at Caesars Palace.
Neon isn’t the only bling in Las Vegas.
The shrine sits near the entrance to Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, a few feet from the “Absinthe” tent.
The shrine is a replica of one of Thailand’s most popular shrines found at Bangkok’s Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. It was donated to Caesars Palace in 1984.
Shout-out to the only Brahma shrine in Western Hemisphere.
The shrine is 14 feet tall and weighs about 8,500 pounds. It originally weighed 1,200 pounds, but then the Bacchanal Buffet opened at Caesars, so that flew out the window.
Visitors stop by the shrine outside Caesars Palace because it’s said to “bestow prosperity and good fortune on those who come to visit and make their hopes and wishes known.”
Or, as gamblers put it, “Hey, it can’t hurt.”
Caesars directions: “Outside Hell’s Kitchen.” Bangkok directions: “Ratchaprasong intersection of Ratchadamri Road in Lumphini Subdistrict, Pathum Wan District.”
In the center of the shrine, Brahma has eight hands holding various objects like a vase (sacred water), a string of beads (karma), a book (knowledge), a spear (willpower), a conch shell (wealth) and Caesars Rewards loyalty club card (freebies). Unless, of course, it’s culturally insensitive to make jokes like that, then nevermind.
Beyond Brahma’s eight hands, it also has four faces.
The Internet can’t decide what the four faces mean. Some sources say they represent the divine states of mind: Loving kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity. Others say they represent career/life, relationship/family, wealth and wisdom/health.
The ’80s were a good time to be a plaque maker.
Fun Thai fact: In Thai culture, it’s best to avoid praying at the Brahma shrine during your period, as it’s considered disrespectful. We are not making this up.
The bottom line is the Brahma shrine at Caesars Palace has a lot of mojo and shouldn’t be overlooked as a place for calm and introspection and possibly an edge before you hit the casino.
The Bellagio Conservatory has rolled out yet another crowd-pleaser with its Chinese New Year display.
Flowering plants are also known as “angiosperms,” or as we refer to them, “Oh, grow up.”
This year’s Chinese New Year display was all the more impressive because it faced a couple of challenges.
First, it’s the Year of the Rat.
Designing a visually appealing display around a much-maligned rodent is no mean feat. The Conservatory’s horticulture team has, not surprisingly, delivered the goods with their usual flair.
Las Vegas rats sometimes travel in packs. We’ll wait.
The other challenge, of course, is it’s not just the Year of the Rat. It’s the Year of the Coronavirus. Awkward.
The freak-out about the coronavirus (which originated in Wuhan, China) is ongoing, with some concerned we could be in the midst of a full-blown pandemic. We don’t entirely know what a pandemic is, but it doesn’t sound like something we’d want to find in our salad.
While others might be inclined to shy away from a Chinese-themed attraction at this juncture, Bellagio has defiantly decided to stay the course and do a top-notch Chinese New Year display, anyway. And we love them for it.
Because if Vegas stops doing spectacle, the bug has already won.
If you can’t enjoy some whimsy, you’re probably just jaded.
The Conservatory not only manages to make us forget about the elephant(s) in the room, it pulls out all the stops by including just about every lucky symbol imaginable in the display.
There are lucky coins and birds and lions (no, they’re not dragons, rube) and lanterns and ding pots and jade medallions (shout-out to the pun in that last photo caption) and gold ingots and citrus trees and cherry blossoms and, yes, even koi fish.
The Bellagio Conservatory is currently home to about 75 koi.
Koi are very shy. At least that’s what they want you to think.
Naturally, there are metric ass-ton of flowers. We counted 31,980, although the official news release says there are 32,000. It’s possible Bellagio rounded up.
It’s worth noting they said the 2019 Chinese New Year display used 32,000. Somebody in Bellagio’s P.R. department is clearly tired of counting flowers.
In 2018, it was 22,000 flowers. You know, inflation. Oh, and in 2017, it was 22,000. Starting to see a pattern here? We should probably start following these flower counts from the Bellagio Conservatory with “ish.”
Here are some stats from the aforementioned news release:
Number of team members involved in building the display: 115-ish.
Height of the jade medallions: 20 feet-ish.
Height of the aforementioned rat: 14 feet-ish.
Number of changing Chinese lanterns: 6-ish.
Number of items included in this list to see if you’re still paying attention: 1-ish.
Number of cherry blossom trees: 6-ish.
Number of rats in the display: 5-ish.
The Bellagio Conservatory always draws a great crowd, despite the fact most of those people don’t spend a dime at Bellagio.
That’s probably the third elephant in the room.
And while we’re on the subject, China’s zodiac chart really could use an elephant. They could dump the goat. Goats can be jerks.
In what appears to be a cost-saving measure, the Bellagio Conservatory is reducing its number of seasonal displays in 2020. By one.
This year, rather than five seasonal displays, the Conservatory will have four.
It’s just one fewer displays. Please remain clam.
Instead of its traditional Spring and Summer displays, there will be a consolidated one: “Japan Journey: Magical Kansai.” This display will span two seasons, spring and summer.
We are not a math person, but the move should shave 20% off the Conservatory’s annual budget.
In the past, the Bellagio Conservatory had five seasonal displays: Chinese New Year (Jan. to March), Spring (March to May), Summer (June to Sep.), Autumn (Sep. to Nov.) and Winter (Dec. to Jan.).
In 2020, there will be four displays:
Chinese New Year (Jan. 11 to March 14)
Japan Journey: Magical Kansai (Mar. 21 to Sep. 12)
Autumn (Sep. 19 to Nov. 28)
Holiday (Dec. 5 to Jan. 4, 2021)
Christmas isn’t going anywhere.
Recently, there’s been a growing Japanese presence in some seasonal displays because of the efforts of MGM Resorts, operator of Bellagio (the resort was recently sold to Blackstone Group in a lease-back deal), to land a potentially lucrative casino in Japan.
Las Vegas observers have long wondered how long Bellagio would be able sustain this free attraction. While such attractions draw crowds, it’s questionable whether such crowds translate into customers.
Other free attractions, such as “Sirens of TI” at Treasure Island and “Parade in the Sky” at Rio have been nixed to cut costs.
For the moment, Bellagio should get some cost savings without visitors noticing one fewer seasonal displays.
Bellagio continues to be a major supplier of whimsy.
It’s unknown if the reduction in seasonal displays is related to the change of ownership of Bellagio, but time will tell if reductions continue or if Bellagio could (gasp) begin charging for the attraction to reduce costs further.